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Don't Forget to Apply to a "Safety" College

tokenadulttokenadult Posts: 17,473Super Moderator Senior Member
edited January 14 in College Search & Selection
I've noticed that as College Confidential gains more and more participants, we are seeing more and more threads in April after admission decisions are announced in which a student or parent announces with dismay that all the student's applications to "top" colleges were rejected. In today's competitive admission environment, many high school students with fine academic records will not get into their first-choice college, or their second-choice college, or their third-choice college. That's just a hard mathematical fact. Every year on College Confidential, a lot of participants post in April that they were disappointed in their admission results.

But the end of the application process to your dream college doesn't have to be the end of your college dreams. Anyone applying to a top college (Harvard, Yale, Princeton, MIT, Stanford, etc.) ought also be applying to a "safety" college, a college you can count on being admitted to. In previous CC posts, I have defined a safety college as one that

1) is pretty much certain to admit the applicant, based on its known behavior in acting on recent admission applications,

2) has a strong program in an area the applicant is interested in,

3) is affordable based on its known behavior in acting on financial aid applications,

and

4) is likeable to the applicant.

What college fits the "safety" definition for you? What do you like about it? It's vital to build an application list from the safety college on up, and I appreciate suggestions in this thread about how to do that.

Good luck to the members of high school classes of 2012 and 2013 who are putting together lists of colleges to apply to.
Post edited by tokenadult on
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Replies to: Don't Forget to Apply to a "Safety" College

  • jude_36jude_36 Posts: 543Registered User Member
    I think the key is to make sure that all the colleges you apply to are colleges where you could be successful and happy. As has been noted on other threads, the school isn't a safety if you won't attend.

    I stressed to my children that there are thousands of colleges, and that you can get a good education at any of them, and you can fail at any of them. A lot of it has to do with self-motivation.

    That being said, for my daughter that is currently going through the process, athletics was very important. She wants to participate in athletics in school, so she made a list of D3 schools that offered her sport. Then she picked the area of the country where she wanted to be, the school size, etc. THEN she looked at rankings. She picked eight schools, two that would be considered safeties, two match, two high match, two reach. She really, REALLY liked one of the safeties, but it has since dropped off her list. It also was a rolling-admission school, so she did know as far back as January that she had a place to go, which is a comfort...
  • debate_addictdebate_addict Posts: 2,307Registered User Senior Member
    haha, tokenadult you have a thing for safety school threads :)
  • EliCash91EliCash91 Posts: 276Registered User Junior Member
    Counselors at my school stress your fourth point vehemently and with good reason--there is no point in applying to a school that you would would never attend or enjoy. Excellent thread!
  • momofddmomofdd Posts: 103Registered User Junior Member
    Great thread. Our daughter was very interested in languages/international studies when she was applying in 2006. She decided to apply early action to Dickinson, which met her focus requirements, and which she liked a lot. Getting that fat envelope, with lots of merit money to boot, was such a boost after being deferred from Middlebury!
    While she didn't have to use a safety in the end, having that one in the pocket made the waiting of feb. and march a lot easier on the whole household.
  • CountingDownCountingDown Posts: 10,450Registered User Senior Member
    Tokenadult, I just cross-posted this on another thread:
    ...what used to be a slam dunk at the flagships aren't any more. Just have to look at the UF forum (and Cal-Davis, Irvine, etc.) to see that kids with stats that would have been a shoo-in just a couple of years ago are now getting waitlisted or rejected. It's great for the flagships, whose stats are rising as they get a sizeable critical mass of super students (our flagship had overflow housing for Honors this year due to the higher-than-expected yield).

    S found submitting EA applications (and priority decision to the flagship) to every school on his list that accepted them was an excellent way of assessing his chances in the pool, and it was sure nice (and surprising) to have two of his top choices in hand in December. We feel doubly grateful now.

    S isn't crazy about a huge school [which the flagship is], but he knew the department he was interested in takes very good care of their undergrads... and that there are many opportunities for a personalized, challenging experience. He also has many, many friends there who are quite happy (as are their parents!).

    Make sure your safety is, in fact, a safety in these times of crazy admissions.

    Unexpected consequence of a college list that has a good mix of schools that my S really likes: he is having an agonizing time trying to decide. Safety offers things (besides $$) that he values; super reach doesn't have some things he values that *are* at his high target schools; those high targets are showing him love and $$, which mitigate the full price. No slam dunk decisions here. He would be happy at any of them.
  • jude_36jude_36 Posts: 543Registered User Member
    I should have pointed out that the error we DID make when applying to schools is that we didn't do enough financial aid research. We got several generous packages, but they didn't always come from the schools that I had expected them to. It has been quite an eye-opener for me to see what schools offer what kind of aid, because it was not what I expected. Still, since my daughter chose schools she liked, weeding some out based on aid was not a heart-breaker.
  • jazzymomjazzymom Posts: 3,189Registered User Senior Member
    Timely thread topic since I've begun to wonder if there's any such thing as "safety" colleges for the coming admission cycle.

    Private colleges, even those with an admission rate of more than 50 percent, can be entirely subjective and unpredictable in admissions. Public colleges and universities are seeing applications skyrocket and they too are more often using the holistic approach and can be unpredictable.

    For a CA applicant, it's downright scary what has been happening this year to UC admissions in the middle range of UCs (UC Davis, UC Santa Barbara for example). My son's h.s. GC suggested that Davis would be perfect for him, due to its science programs and implied it would be a safety for him considering his GPA and stats. But from reading about UC admissions this year on CC, I know that there can be no assumptions made, no guarantee expected. Next year is probably going to be another year when it's very difficult to tell if a "safety" is really safe.

    As a result, so far, with S2, much more than with S1, we are building the list from the bottom up, making sure to visit likely (not safety) colleges with as much attention as the matches and the few reaches. The list is going to be lighter on reaches and heavier on matches and "highly likelies" and we will stress the need to avoid falling in love until after acceptances are known. And total costs as well.

    Also, I have to say that I'm thinking of travel expense more this time around and colleges in Maine or NH or upstate NY are having less appeal no matter how wonderful they sound. The visit budget is being carefully planned due to the increasing cost of flying.

    For the "likely" colleges on S2's list, so far I'd say the only one I feel sure about might be University of Oregon. (Or, as it is affectionately known in CA, "UC-Eugene"). He also likes U Colorado-Boulder, but being OOS, how safe can we consider admissions there? It's a pretty likely, though.

    And on the private side so far is, University of Puget Sound, a solid and serious academic community set on a lovely, "chill" campus in a bustling small waterfront city (Tacoma) within a 30-minute drive of big-city Seattle. It's definitely on the list. Another possibility, closer to home, might be University of the Pacific, which we haven't visited yet, but sounds like a good option to consider.

    I think it's a good idea to throw out suggestions for "likely" colleges in different parts of the country.
  • summerinthecitysummerinthecity Posts: 282Registered User Junior Member
    My safety is probably going to be CU Boulder, jazzymom. I wouldn't worry about your son not getting in if he is a solid student. Several fairly middle of the road students from my school got in with big scholarships.
  • theorygeektheorygeek Posts: 135Registered User Junior Member
    I feel lucky that my state college (University of Washington) is such a good school. Though it isn't my first choice, I would feel just fine going there.
  • collegebound40collegebound40 Posts: 74- Junior Member
    Just to make sure you're accepted somewhere, I say apply EA or early response to as many interesting colleges as possible. I only applied to one, my top choice, but I kind of regret not applying to more.
  • Wneckid99Wneckid99 Posts: 925Registered User Member
    i was just thinking- what if i was the son of tokenadult. no offense to token adult and in no way am i putting the idea down- but tokenadult knows so much abt college/spends a lot of time on this site (btw- do you have a job tokenadult)

    it might be good or bad if my parents do this much about colleges- token adult: do you give your child a lot of freedom in the college process?

    i know this seems like im hating on you tokenadult...im not- i think your a great poster first and prob a great person too. just thinking if i was ur son (im a junior) since my parents dont know the difference between BC and BU
  • quaerequaere Posts: 1,264Registered User Senior Member
    This is so, so important. A friend of mine applied to three safeties at the last minute, without giving them much thought - didn't request info, didn't visit, didn't research them other than to make sure that they offered his major and were sufficiently close to home. He was sure that he'd get into at least one of his matches. It didn't happen. Now he has three acceptances from his safety schools (with plenty of merit aid) and has a month to choose between schools that he knows nothing about, isn't particularly attached to, and was sure he'd never end up attending. Plenty of other students in my class assumed that a school like Skidmore ("I've never heard of it, so it must have low standards!") or University of Michigan ("It's a state school!") or Parental U. ("I'm a legacy!") can be a safety, and ended up with no acceptances.

    Your safety schools (plural) are the most important schools on your list. Show them some love. Find good ones; post your stats on CC and make sure they're really safeties (don't just trust your GC). Do your research and pay them visits; interview, talk faculty, spend the night. Take the applications seriously, and don't leave them for last. In other words, don't treat them like they're safeties.
  • shennieshennie Posts: 2,467Registered User Senior Member
    Another thing - It really is OK if your number 1 school is a saftey! Don't get so caught up in the whole prestige thing that you find yourself disregarding the perfect school just because it isn't ranked high enough, whatever that means. I think it is a mistake to start out the journey with the goal of getting into the highest ranked college that will accept you. Rankings should be a pretty small part of the things that you look at.
  • tokenadulttokenadult Posts: 17,473Super Moderator Senior Member
    do you give your child a lot of freedom in the college process?

    He gets to decide where to apply, and he gets to decide where to attend if admitted to more than one college. He's had a lot to do with setting up his high school schedule too, and with shopping for various high schools in town.
  • tokenadulttokenadult Posts: 17,473Super Moderator Senior Member
    It really is OK if your number 1 school is a safety!

    Oh, yes. If the college is a good college for you, go for it.
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